Remembering Lou Gehrig’s ‘Luckiest Man’ Speech

Tomorrow is the Fourth of July, as the United States celebrates 232 years of independence from Britain (and what better way to rub in the limeys’ noses than having two American chicks meeting in the Wimbledon women’s final).

Lou Gehrig

But as USA TODAY’S GAME ON points out, July 4th is also the anniversary of one of the most famous sports speeches ever given - Lou Gehrig telling the Yankees faithful how he was “the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

It was 69 years ago that Gehrig, diagnosed with ALS, made his speech at Yankee Stadium, as over 62,000 fans packed the rafters for “Lou Gehring Appreciation Day”. Accompanied by members of the 1939 and 1927 Yankees teams, Gehrig told the crowd these words:

Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.

Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure, I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I’m lucky.

When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift - that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies - that’s something.

When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter - that’s something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body - it’s a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed - that’s the finest I know.

So I close in saying that I may have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for.

Gherig died two years later in 1941 at the age of 37. His record of 2,130 consecutive games played stood for 56 years before Cal Ripken Jr. broke it in 1995.

Audio of Gehrig’s speech can be found here. For those who want a little more Hollywood pizazz, here’s Gary Cooper’s performance of the speech in the 1942 film “The Pride of the Yankees“: